He's got a new caddie and a new home in the United States.
Lee Westwood hopes those changes translate into victories this year, starting with the Dubai Desert Classic that begins Thursday.
The eighth-ranked Englishman has been a runner-up at Dubai three times, including last year when he led after three rounds but lost to Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello. Westwood missed a seven-footer on 17 that could have tied, and one on 18 to force a playoff.
After missing the cut at the PGA Championship last year, Westwood split from coach Pete Cowen and temporary caddie Mike Waite. Mike Kerr, normally on the bag for Alvaro Quiros, took over. Westwood also moved to Florida with his family in December after rejoining the PGA Tour in 2012.
The move to Florida, Westwood said, has allowed him to play much more golf in the offseason than he's done in the past when England has been frigid.
“I feel like I'm coming out running,” Westwood said, adding that his short game and putting have shown the most improvement.
“I played a lot more this winter than I would normally play and there’s no rust. The main reason for moving to Florida was to get more games of golf as I wouldn’t play normally when I’m at home because of the weather.
“Last week I had shorts on and was out playing with (world number three) Luke Donald. Living in England I’ve always finished the year, gone home, packed the clubs away and came back out trying to catch everyone else.
“My short game is sharper from being out there especially my putting,” added Westwood.
Westwood, though, has yet to replace Cowen and isn't looking to overhaul his swing like Tiger Woods has in the past. The Englishman has been practicing more and “doesn't feel rusty at the moment.”
“I haven't really changed coaches but done away with a few,” he said with a smile. “That is a big difference. I'm not going to another coach and trying a new method. I'm not making any big changes as such.”
Westwood, who turns 40 this year, said it seemed “like the right time” to move to the United States. He said his two children, who were 8 and 11, were young enough to make the adjustment to a new school, and the new location allows him to play more on the U.S. tour without being away from his family for long periods.
“I played the PGA Tour last year and really enjoyed it and fancied a new challenge with the family,” Westwood said. “Fancied making a move and being somewhere warm.”
And with every new season, Westwood has to contend with questions of whether this might be the year he finally wins a major. He finished tied for third at last year's Masters, but fared poorly in the other three. Time was of the essence, he admitted, but he wasn't about to let his age influence his play.
“That would be putting a bit of pressure on myself,” he said. “No, I try hard year every year to win a major, so just need to find a little spark that takes me from finishing second or third to winning one.”
Westwood won twice in 2012, once on the European Tour and once on the OneAsia Tour. But for a man who has 22 victories on the European Tour, it was a less than stellar season. He struggled at times with his putter and saw his ranking slip from third to seventh. He ended the year tied for a disappointing 48th in the season-ending Dubai World Championship.
(Files from Reuters were used in this report)
THIS WEEK IN GOLF
PGA TOUR - PHOENIX OPEN
COURSE: TPC Scottsdale, Stadium Course (7,216 yards, par 71).
PURSE: $6.2 million. Winner's share: $1,116,000.
TELEVISION: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 4-7 p.m., 7:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 1-5 p.m., 6:30-11:30 p.m.) and NBC (Saturday-Sunday, 3-6 p.m.)
CANADIAN CONTENT: Stephen Ames, Graham DeLaet, Brad Fritsch, David Hearn, Mike Weir
NOTES: Phil Mickelson, accorded “favorite son” status going back to his Arizona State days, is in the field along with Masters champion Bubba Watson, a former Scottsdale resident who is bacl in the old neighborhood for the first time since adopting a son and moving to Orlando last spring, and FedEx Cup winner Brandt Snedeker. Mickelson won the event in 1996 and 2005. In 2005, the former Arizona State star shot a 60 in the second round en route to a five-stroke victory. Watson hopes to return to action after flu symptoms forced him to withdraw at Torrey Pines. ...Martin Kaymer, who sealed Europe’s Ryder Cup victory last September, and three-time major champion Padraig Harrington will make their season debuts. It’ll be Kaymer’s first event since taking up PGA Tour membership during the offseason. … J.B. Holmes, a two-time champion at TPC Scottsdale, returns after a year’s hiatus as he recovered from brain surgery. … The field also features two of the season’s first three winners, as Russell Henley and Brian Gay. ...Kyle Stanley, Scott Stallings and Tommy Gainey are the only men to enter each of the season’s first five events. ...The centerpiece is the par-3 16th, now an enclosed arena that holds some 20,000 spectators at once. Tiger Woods scored a hole-in-one there in 1997, one of just eight at "The Coliseum." Andrew Magee made PGA Tour history in 2001 with his ace at No. 17 -- the first on a par-4.
EUROPEAN TOUR - DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC
COURSE: Emirates Golf Club, Majlis Course (7,301 yards, par 72).
PURSE: $2.5 million. Winner's share: $415,640.
TELEVISION: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 4:30-8:30 a.m., 12:30-3:30 p.m.; Saturday, 4 a.m.-noon; Sunday, midnight-3 a.m., 4 a.m.-noon; Monday, midnight-3 a.m.).
NOTES: Lee Westwood, No. 8 in the world ranking, is making his first start of the year. He is the only top-10 player in the field, which features just two of the top 20 ranked players in the world (Sergio Garcia, NO. 14) . ...Champions Tour player Mark O'Meara, the 2004 winner, is also in the field along with Colin Montgomerie and 2005 U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell.
ALPG/LET - AUSTRALIAN LADIES MASTERS
COURSE: RACV Royal Pines Resort (6,647 yards, par 72).
PURSE: $261,330. Winner's share: $43,560.
CANADIAN CONTENT: Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Lorie Kane, Sara Maude Juneau
NOTES: Seven-time champion Karrie Webb tops the field along with fellow LPGA Tour players So Yeon Ryu, Jiyai Shin, Jessica Korda, Kane, Juneau and Bentham. Cheyenne Woods, Tiger Woods' niece, is also in the field. ... The tournament has been reduced from 72 to 54 holes. ...Dutchwoman Christel Boeljon birdied the final hole last year for a one-stroke victory. ...Sweden's Caroline Hedwall won the Australian tour's New South Wales Open last week, beating New Zealand amateur star and reigning CN Canadian Women's Open champion Lydia Ko by two strokes.
EUROPEAN SENIOR TOUR - QUALIFYING SCHOOL, FINAL STAGE
COURSE: Pestana Carvoeiro Golf Resort, Pinta Course (6,553 yds, par 71)
CANADIAN CONTENT: Phil Jonas, Jean Laforce, Keir Smith, Ken Tarling, Dave Wettlaufer
NOTES: The 58 qualifiers from Stage One are joined by 17 exempt players in this final stage which will award six full and eight conditional cards for 2013. ...Field will be reduced after three rounds, with all players within eight shots of the lead competing on the final day.
ALL-AMERICAN PROFESSIONAL GOLF TOUR
COURSE: Anthem Golf and Country Club - Persimmon Anthem, Arizona
CANADIAN CONTENT: Eric Hawerchuk, Glen Lengyel, Tyler LeBouthillier, Darren Wallace, Brennan Rumancik, Nick Taylor, Thomas Hay, Steven Shantz, Ryan Desharnais, Jeff Graham, Cory Renfrew, Dallas Mengel, Tyler Frank (a), James Love,
NGA PRO GOLF TOUR - WINTER SERIES
COURSE: Timacuan Golf Club - Lake Mary, FL
CANADIAN CONTENT: Stuart Anderson, Josh Bamberger, Aaron Crawford, Max Gilbert, Mathieu Gingras, Matt Hill, Mark Hoffmann, Matt Hoffmann, James Humphris, Kyle Kirkland, Louis-Alexandre Pitre, Jon Rondeau, Christopher Ross, Riley Wheeldon
SUNCOAST LADIES SERIES
COURSE: Red Tail Golf Club - Sorrento, FL
CANADIAN CONTENT: Danielle Mills, Sue Kim, Ellen O'Brien, Chelcia Petersen (a)
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